Originally posted on February 27, 2017 by Gordon Savage
As far as the principal was concerned the initials by the graffiti were incontrovertible proof that Samantha was responsible. She protested that she didn’t do it, but to no avail.
I never did find out who actually put the graffiti on the school wall, but I suspect it was Ingrid Hoffman. She had broken up with her longtime boyfriend, Dwayne Lindquist, and he had taken an interest in me. When he did and she noticed it, she stopped me in the hall.
Her face was red and her eyebrows furrowed. Her voice reminded me of a snake’s hiss. “You keep your hands off Dwayne, or you’ll be sorry, you hear?”
I admit I don’t take kindly to threats. I put my hands on my hips and stared her in the eye. “Are you threatening me? You don’t decide who Dwayne takes an interest in. He does, and he says you’re the one who broke up with him. So buzz off.”
She must have initially thought she could intimidate me. When I glared down on her, I think it scared her. She stepped back looking shocked, but she made one last attempt. “You’re going to be sorry.” She turned and stalked off, clearly fuming.
I know, circumstantial evidence, and it really didn’t matter. I was the one who got the blame for the graffiti. Dr. Ashworth was sure I was the one who did it, and he refused to even consider anyone else. He called my mother and demanded she come to his office. Then he took my phone and sat me down on the same bench I had waited on before. He handed the phone to Ms. Farrow and stomped into his office.
Mom showed up with Father thirty minutes later. While Mom checked in with Ms. Farrow, Father came over to where I sat. He stood in front of me with a scowl on his face. “Now what the hell have you done?”
I stood up, partly out of habit and partly because I felt less overawed that way. I couldn’t keep the anger out of my voice. “Someone spray painted graffiti on the front of the school and signed it with my initials. I didn’t do it.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
That made me even angrier. “I … don’t … lie! … Ever!” I glared back at him.
Ms. Farrow broke us up. “Principal Ashworth will see you now, all three of you.”
Instead of asking Mom and Father to sit down, Dr. Ashworth stood up and delivered my sentence. I was to come in on Saturday with paint remover and other appropriate cleaning material and remove the graffiti. Any further offenses on my part would be grounds for suspension.
What hurt most was that neither Mom nor Father offered any objection or defense for me. They believed I was guilty. Well, Father did anyway. That evening he notified me that my grounding would be extended another month and dismissed me.
I stood my ground. “You’re not listening to me. Why don’t you believe me when I say I didn’t do it?”
He started to walk away without saying another word.
I raised my voice. “I didn’t do it.”
He stopped and faced me. “After all the trouble you’ve gotten into lately, it’s hard to know what to believe.”
What to believe? I had long before learned better than to lie. I challenged him. “Did I lie to you about going to the mall? Did I lie to you when I pulled that stunt with the police car? I don’t lie. You taught me well.”
A strange expression flickered across his face and disappeared into his unemotional expression. For a second I thought I had hit a nerve, but he turned and walked away.
I was furious. “Don’t you walk out on me!”
He faced me again. He barked, “That’ll do! I’ll not take any more excuses from you, and don’t you ever try to order me around, young lady! Now get up to your room before I add another month to your grounding.”
The tone of his voice was absolutely frightening, and I knew I had lost my last chance to get him to listen. I ran up the stairs with blinding tears in my eyes and plopped down on my bed sobbing.
A few minutes later Mom knocked on my door. “May I come in?”
I peered up at her in the doorway. She seemed genuinely distressed. Finally, I realized I wasn’t mad at her and nodded weakly.
Stepping into my room, she closed the door and walked over to the bed. She sat down beside me and stroked my hair. “It’s not the end of the world you know.”
I was tempted to bury my face in her shoulder and just cry it out, but I resisted the urge and choked out, “It’s not the punishment. It’s the fact that you and my father don’t believe me. I’ve never lied to you, not ever. You know that.”
“Yes, I know that, dear. I’ve tried to tell that to Brian, but he won’t listen. I think you’ve hurt him the past few months and he no longer trusts you.”
I realized she might be right, but it wasn’t fair. I don’t lie.